8:00 PM ET, September 24, 2011
Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Jarrett Lee tosses 3 TDs as LSU makes case for No. 1 with drubbing of WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- LSU's opportunistic defense overcame a record performance from West Virginia's Geno Smith, and the Tigers made their case to replace Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the nation.
Now it's up to the voters to decide whether LSU deserves to move ahead of No. 1 Oklahoma, which came from 11 points down to beat Missouri 38-28 Saturday night.
LSU coach Les Miles doesn't believe the Tigers are there yet.
"I like the position we're in, but I don't think we're the best team in college football today," Miles said. "I think there is a hope and want and desire to be there. I don't know if we're good enough right now to do everything we want to do. That's putting the cart before the horse."
The Tigers (4-0) converted two of the four turnovers they created into scores, built a big early lead and withstood West Virginia's strong comeback for its third win over a ranked opponent this season, with all of three coming away from home. Every win so far has been by double digits.
West Virginia (3-1) outgained LSU 533-366. Smith set school records for completions (38), attempts (65) and passing yards (463). But he was intercepted twice after throwing one in the previous three games.
And for the second straight year, the Mountaineers (3-1) couldn't overcome a double-digit halftime deficit to the Tigers.
"We got down early and we came out in the second half and fought to the end," Smith said. "We learned that if we don't shoot ourselves in the foot, we can pretty much play with anybody."
Lee wasn't too shabby, either. His three TD passes tied a career high and matched his output of the three previous games. He finished 16 of 28 for 180 yards.
"Jarrett Lee played a good game," West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin said. "He managed the game well and he got their guys calm when we started to make a little run. He kept them together as a good quarterback does."
West Virginia couldn't pad its resume with a win over a Southeastern Conference opponent at a time when there's been speculation the SEC might be interested in the Mountaineers as a 14th school. Texas A&M is set become the 13th member when it leaves the Big 12 next season.
West Virginia hadn't given up this many points at home since a 46-44 triple-overtime win over Louisville in 2005.
Pinned deep by superb punting from Brad Wing, who averaged 49 yards on six kicks, West Virginia time after time stared at needing to drive the length of the field. The Mountaineers started six possessions inside their 15.
West Virginia hoped to get off to a fast start, but for the third time this season, that didn't happen.
LSU jumped ahead to stay with the help of two first-quarter turnovers and consistently won the battle of field position.
"They gave us some short fields early," Miles said. "We threw some balls and completed some balls because they were packing the line, and got off to a nice start."
Just before halftime, Tyrann Mathieu batted a pass into the air, caught it at the West Virginia 17 and ran to the 1. Lee found Chase Clement in the end zone two plays later to put the Tigers ahead 27-7. Lee also had first-half scoring tosses of 11 yards to Rueben Randle and 52 yards to Odell Beckham.
LSU missed a field goal and punted twice on its first three possessions after halftime, giving West Virginia a chance to close the gap.
Smith found tight end Tyler Urban from 12 yards out to cap an 80-yard drive on West Virginia's first possession of the third quarter, then found Austin on a 72-yard pass play on the next series to set up Dustin Garrison's 1-yard run to cut the deficit to 27-21 late in the third.
But Morris Claiborne returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, breaking two tackles along the way, to put LSU ahead by double digits to stay.
Spencer Ware ran for 92 yards on 23 carries. Ford had 82 yards, including TD runs of 22 and 15 yards.
Smith broke Mark Bulger's school records of 34 completions and 429 passing yards set against Missouri in the 1998 Insight.com Bowl. Gerald Fisher held the previous mark of 57 pass attempts against Maryland in 1951.
Austin caught 11 passes for 187 yards for the Mountaineers.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Morris Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return to end the third quarter took the wind out of West Virginia's sails.
Gameball goes to... Jarrett Lee, who threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns -- and more importantly, didn't turn the ball over.
Stat of the game... 480. LSU's vaunted defense had allowed 480 passing yards entering Saturday; Geno Smith racked up 463.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-16||7-17|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-2|
|TD||10:05||Rueben Randle 11 Yd Pass From Jarrett Lee (Drew Alleman Kick)||7||0|
|TD||01:49||Michael Ford 22 Yd Run (Two-Point Conversion Failed)||13||0|
|TD||12:30||Stedman Bailey 20 Yd Pass From Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||13||7|
|TD||06:57||Odell Beckham 52 Yd Pass From Jarrett Lee (Drew Alleman Kick)||20||7|
|TD||00:27||Chase Clement 1 Yd Pass From Jarrett Lee (Drew Alleman Kick)||27||7|
|TD||08:40||Tyler Urban 12 Yd Pass From Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||27||14|
|TD||01:16||Dustin Garrison 1 Yd Run (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||27||21|
|TD||01:00||Morris Claiborne 99 Yd Kickoff Return (Drew Alleman Kick)||34||21|
|TD||09:55||Michael Ford 15 Yd Run (Two-Point Conversion Failed)||40||21|
|TD||03:03||Alfred Blue 18 Yd Run (Drew Alleman Kick)||47||21|
Morris Claiborne is the 5th LSU player with a 99-yard KO return or longer, first since Eric Martin had a 100-yd return in 1987[+]
Longest Kickoff Return TD
ESPN Stats & Information